I grew up in Miami, a city where swimming is a regular past-time and where surviving undercurrents in the Atlantic Ocean is a regular part of swimming lessons. When overwhelming emotions take over, they can feel like an undercurrent, a riptide. That’s what trauma is – overwhelming sensations that make you feel paralyzed.
If you fight the tide, you can drown. What does this look like in “real life”:
- You’ll find yourself sputtering or silent when you really have something to say.
- You won’t tell the truth about what’s really upsetting you (immobilizing the other person to do something about it).
- You’ll find yourself betraying your own values, dreams or goals.
- You’ll find yourself immobilized when you need to take action.
- You’ll find yourself fuzzy-headed when you need to be clear and focused.
SURVIVING Undercurrents and Overwhelming Emotions
To survive an undercurrent, you learn to stay present with your body, relax and swim to shore. To survive overwhelming emotions, you learn to stay present with your body, relax and get in touch with your aliveness.
THRIVING = Actually Enjoying “RIDING THE RIP” !!
According to emotional trauma pioneer Peter Levine, PhD, trauma can be a portal to joy, ecstasy and spiritual liberation. Levine suggests befriending and transforming trauma-based sensations:
“The ability to feel the physical sensations of paralysis without becoming overwhelmed and surrender to them is the key in transforming trauma. . . standing back from fear allows the individual to emerge from the strangulation of trauma. . . emotional regulation, our rudder through life, comes about through embodiment.”
Surfing for Girls suggests using the current as a towline!
Experienced paddlers, surfers and beach divers use rip tides as readily as river runners use eddies, and for many of the same reasons. Rip tides conserve energy, give a break from big waves, and put the power of current anomalies to work for the paddler. Yes, we’re talking about deliberately getting “caught” in a rip tide. If you are launching from a beach, a rip tide is like a moving sidewalk at a large airport: it takes you where you want to go faster and with less effort. – By C. L. Cowan
Rip current – “A strong, narrow surface current that flows rapidly away from the shore, returning the water carried landward by waves. Also called riptide, tiderip.”
If you sit on the beach and watch experienced surfers and how they use the rip currents to save themselves some paddling effort you observe a few things. First they are using almost no effort to paddle out. Second they are popping out of the current right at the take off spot and catching a wave. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Again and again they do it, taking the wave all the way in, and heading back out using the current as a towline.
As a beginner you do not want to jump right in and try this. No matter how efficient it looks you need some water time to know how to do this correctly. You do not want to have to be rescued by a lifeguard or another surfer because you tried this without having the surfing chops you needed.
You need to have strong paddling ability to use this technique, it is an energy saver, but it is no substitute for good, old-fashioned swimming skill. When you know that you are strong enough and you have observed experienced surfers repeatedly, then you can give the technique a go. Unless the surf is very small make sure you are buddied up with someone who is both a strong swimmer and surfer.
If you have studied well and are a strong paddler you won’t need them. But you want the security behind you. Confidence boosting combined with knowledge and discretion will allow you to learn the technique.
If TRAUMA is an embodied experience of
- “smaller than”
- tend to be reactive (compulsive) fight, flight, freeze, fawn (people-please)
- your chi/ energy is STUCK
- disempowerment, helplessness, immobility
- your emotions have you
- SURVIVING A RIPTIDE
then FEELING FULLY ALIVE is an embodied experience of the opposite:
- “greater than”
- tend to be proactive (conscious) enlivened, spirited actions, on the pulse of living your very best life
- your chi/ energy is MOVING
- deep power, agency and potency
- you own your emotions
- RIDING THE RIP
So – while I don’t recommend that you go looking for trauma, if you’re already dealing with it – when it rises up and starts to overwhelm you – YOU CAN LEARN TO RIDE THE TIDE!
What I know for sure is that there is ecstasy and joy on the other side!